Originally created 11/21/02

Odds and Ends



ARTESIA, N.M. -- A man who was trying to fix a car he bought at a police auction discovered more than he paid for - bundles of cocaine.

The man notified the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force on Nov. 12 that he found packages of drugs under the vehicle's console when he started to repair the emergency brake.

The packages contained about 9.7 pounds of cocaine, authorities said.

The man, whose name was not released, bought the 1992 car in Las Cruces earlier this month. He knew from auction information that the vehicle had been seized by the Las Cruces-Dona Ana County Metro Narcotics Agency in June 2001 and had been forfeited.

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LOS ANGELES -- Mayor James Hahn is using an Asian trip this week to drum up business and make a pitch for pandas.

The Chinese government decides whether U.S. zoos should be allowed to borrow the black-and-white bamboo eaters. Hahn says Los Angeles should be given pandas because it is a gateway to Asia with a large Chinese-American population.

"It's a huge feather in a city's cap if they can get a panda," Hahn said last week. "It's a very good investment for the entire zoo to have pandas. They are a marquee exhibit. It would be huge."

David Towne, a Los Angeles Zoo consultant and director of the Giant Panda Conservation Foundation, is going to Beijing to help.

"I've tried to advise the folks here: Do not put the Chinese on the spot by announcing that you're getting the pandas," Towne said. "It embarrasses you and it puts pressure on them. You have to develop rapport ... and relationships."

Only three U.S. zoos have pandas: the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and Zoo Atlanta, which both have two; and the San Diego Zoo, which has two adults and a juvenile that will soon be going home.

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The bean bag chair in the Hope College fraternity house of Chip George and Matt Jung was leaking beads. By 1997 more bag than bean remained.

George and Jung fixed it by jamming ripped-up couch cushions into the bag.

"It was the most comfortable chair in the house. Everybody would fight for it," George told The Grand Rapids Press.

The innovation was the start of the Foof chair and Comfort Research.

The pair bought a sewing machine and a 16-horsepower chipper to shred foam. Meijer Inc. bought 50 chairs and sold them in its East Lansing store, near the Michigan State University campus.

"We found that parents couldn't spend enough on their kids when they first go to college," George, 28, said of the chairs that retail for about $45. "We would set up on campus near the union for a couple of days and sell, like, 50 of them."

Things moved quickly from there. The two began contracting with a Mississippi factory to make the bags. Soon, they were dealing with stores like Room to Grow, Urban Outfitters and BJ's Wholesale Club.

Jung and George designed new chairs, offering several Foof sizes, adding children's furniture and fruit-shaped Foof chairs.

They recently opened a new plant in Grand Rapids. The company's 16 employees can make 200 Foof chairs a day.

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A mugger found that turnabout is fair play.

After knocking down a woman in a supermarket parking lot and stealing her purse, he was chased down by a man who pushed him to the ground and snatched the purse back.

Martin Luik, 24, said he heard the woman's shouts for help, jumped on his bicycle and easily caught the fleeing robber.

The woman, Cheryl Kernan, 55, called Luik her hero.

"The attacker stole my purse, threw me on the ground. And then this young kid comes from nowhere with my purse," Kernan said. "I had everything in my life in that purse, all my ID, all my keys to my business and my home."

Luik, who moved to the United States four years ago, said he learned how to handle himself growing up on the streets of Moscow. He would not accept a reward, so Kernan invited him to her home for Thanksgiving dinner.

Fort Lauderdale police spokesman Mike Reed said thefts like the one Kernan experienced tend to become more common around holiday times.

"The criminals know where to look for their victims - the malls around Christmas time and large grocery stores around Thanksgiving," Reed said. "People need to be careful. Don't carry large amounts of cash."

The mugger was able to jump into a waiting car and get away.